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Pop Quiz: For how much did the brothers sell Yosef?

It was bound to happen sooner or later! Both Rabbis Choueka and Semah write every week without knowing what the other is writing about. This week, they both wrote about the same topic with the same message. Following is one of the two versions (unsigned because they both deserve credit for it):


"A caravan of Ishmaelites...carrying spices, balsam and lotus." (Beresheet 37:25)

Our perashah tells the tragic story of the sale of Yosef. A lot of study is required to fully understand the powerful forces that were involved that could lead the brothers to sell Yosef. A mere reference to "jealousy" as an explanation for this entire story doesn't do justice to the sons of Ya'akob who were far greater than we are.

The brothers sell Yosef to a group of Arabs. The pasuk says the Arabs were selling perfume and spices. Rashi explains that Arabs usually sold kerosene and tar, which are foul smelling. The Torah is telling us that they were selling perfume and spices which was extremely unusual, to give us the message that Hashem was rewarding His righteous ones that they should not have to suffer. Instead of Yosef being forced to smell the foul odor of tar and kerosene he should smell perfume and spices. The obvious question is: Who cares? Yosef in his misery is being sold as a slave. Does it make a difference to him what he is smelling?

The Rabbis give a parable to explain. Imagine an extremely ill patient undergoing a delicate operation. All of the staff and family are waiting to see if the patient will wake up from the difficult surgery. Suddenly, he opens his eyes and all of the people around him jump for joy. Even though it is still unclear whether he will survive, it is a great sign that he is on the road to recovery.

This was the great revelation to Yosef. It's not that the type of smell was important to Yosef. However, now Yosef was in a very fearful situation. He had no idea what was to become of him. Suddenly, Arabs selling perfume are involved in the sale. Perfume! It hits Yosef like lightning. Hashem is telling him, "I am here with you. Do not fear." Many times a small and insignificant action tells us a whole world of information. We are all Yosef. We are all in exile seeking the light of Hashem's closeness. We should never fear anything because Hashem is that close. Shabbat Shalom.


"Reuben heard and he saved [Yosef] from their hands." (Beresheet 37:21)

What was it that Reuben heard that made him decide to save Yosef from the hands of the brothers?

The preceding pasuk relates that the brothers said, "Let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits, and we will say an evil beast ate him up, and "nir'eh mah yihyu halomotav - we will see what will become of his dreams." Rashi says, that Rabbi Yitzhak interpreted these last words not as a saying of the brothers, but as Ruah Hakodesh. Hashem was saying, "You are planning to kill him; we shall see what will be with his dreams. Will your plan be realized and he will be dead, or will My words be fulfilled and his dreams reach fruition?"

The brothers did not hear this Holy voice, but Reuben did. Thus, he decided that he was obligated to save Yosef and bring him back to Ya'akob. (Vedibarta Bam)

Hanukah pop quiz: What three misvot did the Greeks specifically forbid the Jews to perform?


"And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt, and his baker had sinned against their master, the king of Egypt." (Beresheet 40:1)

Later on in the story the pasuk refers to them in a slightly different way. "And Pharaoh became angry against his two officials, the prince of the butlers and the prince of the bakers." Rabbi S.R. Hirsch notes the apparent mockery of these "princes." They are princes to those beneath them in status, but to those above them they are merely slaves to be manipulated at the whim of their superior. When one's stature is dependent solely upon his relation to the king, his princely position is, at best, precarious. The king holds the life of these "princes" in his hand, as if they were his chattel. To him they are not princes; they are simply butlers and bakers.

This would seem an appropriate message for those who delude themselves with self-aggrandizement as soon as they ascend to a position of semi-importance. The opinion of underlings is of little consequence. What really matters is one's image in the eyes of those to whom he is beholden. We may extend this to a spiritual perspective. We often concern ourselves with the opinion of man, while we neglect to reflect upon the only opinion which is of primary significance - that of Hashem. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to pop quiz: Twenty silver coins.

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